Published on behalf of Patrick Fisher, Young Persons Project Worker
In the current issue of the Times Educational Supplement, Levi Roots speaks about his reading childhood.
In it he says how he came to England as an 11-year-old boy unable to read, write or even spell his name. This directly affected his experience of school:
“Because I couldn’t read, I sat at the back of the class with the boys who misbehaved, while the bright boys sat in the front. We called the front of the class the North and the back the Deep South…I was humble in class, because I wanted to learn and felt a bit embarrassed about not being able to read. Outside class, I was rowdy and seen as a cool country boy who could open a bottle with my teeth or a stick. My peers bigged me up.”
This is a typical scenario for many children even today in High Schools; remaining quiet in class and hiding behind a boisterous facade. In the past two years I have been reading 1:1 and in groups with children who find reading and writing difficult. Regardless of how bright they can seem conversationally, almost all of them suffer from a crippling lack of confidence or embarrassment when it comes to reading which in the most extreme cases has resulted in a child claiming he doesn’t read because he is unable to picture anything in his head.
One of the main stumbling blocks that these children have in overcoming their insecurities is that they feel alone in their situation and are unable, like Levi, to confide in their peers. If as an individual you do not have the skills to access the material how can you begin?
This is why the Get Into Reading project has been so successful; it has allowed children of all ages to hear stories and poems ‘come alive’ and to explore them slowly over time. As Levi says:
“Having books available to me and knowing that I was about to learn what was in them was exciting.”
Levi was lucky enough to have a teacher who spent time making books accessible to him but given the ever increasing pressure placed on teachers this is unlikely to happen regularly. Children need this opportunity made available to them as soon as possible and in the pressure cooker of high school, where time is so short and expectations of achievement so high, it is even more important; how can a child be expected to run before they can walk?